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By Christine Wipfli, Contributing Reporter

SÃO PAULO – While many get discouraged at the sometimes elite and pricey São Paulo scene, there are still a variety of trendy places that are easy on the wallet and well worth checking out. Abundant in cultural diversity, São Paulo offers a plethora of attractions for the budgeted tourist to the light pocketed local; there is indeed no shortage of inexpensive weekend attractions.

The impressive São Paulo skyline at night, photo by Teosaurio/Flickr Creative Commons License.

Exceptional cuisine is something the local Paulistas take a great deal of pride in. There are over 12,000 restaurants and over 15,000 bars to choose from offering cuisines from over sixty different countries, not to mention the eclectic Mercado Municipal. Everything from Thai, Arab, Japanese, Mexican, French, American, or Native Brazilian, you can easily find quality dishes for under R$25.

If there is any place in Brazil to experience delicious oriental cuisine then the Liberdade neighborhood is it, the market being open both Saturdays and Sundays. You can find traditional noodle dishes like Yakisoba for as little as R$4 that will leave you full until dinner time. Aside from authentic oriental dishes there is an arts and crafts market which makes for a great place to buy souvenirs as everything is handmade and the prices are reasonable.

Another very enjoyable destination that is often overlooked is São Paulo’s very own Aquarium located in the Ipiranga neighborhood. Aquário de São Paulo, which is the first themed aquarium in South America, houses hundreds of different types of fish and aquatic animals including playful otters and penguins and impressive Amazonian manatees and Piranhas. The average entrance price is only R$30 per person, relatively cheap considering it is an intriguing and entertaining spectacle be it for couples, friends or families, which requires at least half a day’s visit.

MASP, São Paulo's number one art museum, photo by Peteris2009/Flickr Creative Commons License.

São Paulo’s Ibirapuera Park, often compared to New York’s Central Park, is the largest patch of green in the city and makes for a great place to enjoy the Sub-Tropical Brazilian climate on the weekends. For fitness, you can find just about any sport being played and for leisure a great number of Paulistas laying on the grass, reading, and having a picnic. On Sundays they offer open- air concerts with live music for those interested in dancing or listening to traditional Brazilian music for free.

What trip to São Paulo would be complete without a visit to the Museum? The MASP (Museu de Arte de São Paulo) is an icon of cultural exuberance in the city. While visiting the Museum you can view hundreds of pieces by renowned artists such as Nattier, Ingres, Renoir, Van Gogh, Tintoretto, Rembrandt, and Monet for the small entrance fee of just R$15. To add to a pleasant day, on Sundays there is a captivating antiques flea market right outside the museum with items sure to impress history enthusiasts.

Before leaving the city one should experience a bit of the night life at any of the city’s livelier neighborhoods such as Vila Madalena. It’s a great way to get to know São Paulo and the locals on a more intimate level, and is sure to leave a lasting impression.

Regular flights from Rio to São Paulo with Gol from around R$349.

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